Netflix Bucket Hats. Hulu Popsockets. Is There a Market for Streaming's Big Push Into Consumer Products?

Younger consumers show greatest interest in streaming service-branded merchandise
November 24, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC

If a “Handmaid’s Tale” ugly sweater, Hulu popsocket or Netflix-branded plush doll is on your holiday wish list, you’re in luck. Hulu and Netflix Inc. will offer these branded items and more on their online stores ahead of the holiday shopping season. 

But it’s not clear who actually wants these products. As streaming platforms compete with the Walt Disney Co. merchandise and marketing behemoth to grow their audiences and make them more loyal, Morning Consult data suggests they may face some difficulties getting consumers interested in physical products bearing the companies’ names and logos.

Still, there may be some hope among younger adults, many of whom have grown up in a world of branded everything. And streamers may not even need to sell these products as long as users are talking about them. For Netflix’s plush dolls, otherwise known as “Chilleez” (taken from the “Netflix and chill” internet meme), that strategy appears to have worked.

Disney+, Netflix Drive Consumer Interest in Branded Products From Streamers

Share of respondents who said they were interested in purchasing products featuring logos of or referencing shows from the following streaming services:
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Poll conducted Nov. 12-15, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/- 2%. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

What the numbers say 

  • Thirty-two percent of consumers said they are interested in purchasing products featuring the Disney+ logo and references to Disney+ shows, 2 percentage points higher than the share that said the same of products branded by Netflix. 
  • Gen Zers and millennials were most interested in products from streamers: 53 percent of Gen Zers, for instance, said they were interested in Netflix products. Among millennials, Disney+ (48 percent) and Netflix (47 percent) again drove the most interest in branded products. 
  • Regardless of generation, consumers were least interested in merchandise related to Apple TV+ and its original series and films. Only 15 percent of respondents said they were interested in products related to the tech giant’s streaming service. (Perhaps their iPhones are enough.)
  • Products from Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” (30 percent) and “Loki” (29 percent), as well as Netflix’s “Squid Game” (25 percent), generated the most interest among products tied to specific streaming series and films.  

The impact 

As Netflix and other established streaming services see their subscriber numbers plateau in the United States, some are diversifying their offerings, hoping consumers will purchase products related to the original content — or to the brands themselves — on which they’ve come to rely. And while Disney has built up nearly 100 years of goodwill and brand recognition with consumers, Morning Consult data shows that other services, including Netflix and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video, aren’t far behind, particularly among Gen Zers and millennials. That’s where products like the “Chill by Netflix” collection comes in, which features apparel and goods borrowing from the company’s memorable red-and-black color scheme.

But these products don’t have an enormous market. The streaming companies likely know that and consider them to be more of an extension of their marketing operations and less of a legitimate attempt to add new, stable revenue streams. Products like “Chilleez” are ultimately part of a broader strategy — which includes podcasts and other forms of outreach — to engage users and keep them closely connected to their entertainment ecosystems. (Netflix did not respond when asked for comment on this story.) It’s all in service of the content, which remains the real driver of revenue and growth. 

The survey was conducted Nov. 12-15, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Sarah Shevenock previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering the business of entertainment.

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